Tag Archives: Wes Anderson

Fight! Austrian-Jewish Novelists of the 1920s and ’30s

Roth - Zweig

Remember when Michael Hofmann absolutely destroyed Stefan Zweig in the London Review of Books? It was an impressively vitriolic takedown of the writer who inspired Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and it’s worth re-reading now if only for the zingers. (“Stefan Zweig just tastes fake. He’s the Pepsi of Austrian writing… just putrid through and through.”) I remember thinking wow, okay, maybe. But why are you so angry about it, Hofmann?

Well, I should have realized—Hofmann is Joseph Roth’s translator. And if you didn’t know any better, you could mistake Joseph Roth for Stefan Zweig. They’re both Austrian and Jewish, both novelists and journalists, both born in the late 1800s and died at the start of WWII, both famous for capturing the spirit of the 1920s and ’30s, when all of Europe held its breath in anticipation of its own destruction.

Hofmann takes these two superficially similar writers and declares that you have to choose a side. Who do you love, and who do you hate—Roth or Zweig?

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A(nderson) to Z(weig): The 10 Best Ways to Experience Stefan Zweig’s Influence on The Grand Budapest Hotel

Grand Budapest Hotel

With The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson has ushered in a little Renaissance in the appreciation of Stefan Zweig. To get a sense of how much Anderson’s film is indebted to Zweig, watch this video of Tom Wilkinson, playing his character from the movie, as he reads verbatim from Zweig’s memoir.

Wilkinson in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Oops, I meant to say—this is a list of the 10 best ways to experience Stefan Zweig’s influence on The Grand Budapest Hotel, and that video was #1. Wilkinson is reading from a selection of Zweig’s writing that appears in The Society of the Crossed Keys, a book that Wes Anderson edited himself (although the title is a nod to one of Anderson’s inventions in the movie.) That book is only for sale in the UK. Fools! But I ordered it anyway, and you can too, if you pay a little extra to ship it from Britain. Score! The Society of the Crossed Keys is #2 on our list. If you don’t like the idea of purchasing a book online with pounds sterling, then start by reading this great little excerpt (#3) and the interview between Wes Anderson and George Prochnik that opens the book (#4). Continue reading

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My Friend Wes (The 2,008-Word Essay)

The Wes Anderson Collection

The first thing I notice about the book is its weight. The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz is almost a square foot large and weighs over 4.5 pounds. I think, as I hoist the solid book, the bright cover wrapped with intricate drawings by Max Dalton: this is a good deal for forty bucks. The book has the feel of a photo album—dense with decades of memories—and I open it with a similar reverence, because there they are: all my old friends.


I saw The Royal Tenenbaums in theatres with both of my parents, sometime in the winter 2002, when I was in eighth grade. Oh, a movie with Bill Murray, we said. We love Bill Murray! Off we went. But this would be no ordinary movie-viewing experience for me. This was not giggling in the back row with my friends during Harry Potter or being the target of a sloppy, off-mark kiss, courtesy of my middle-school boyfriend in Spider-Man. I sat between my parents, and as Margot Tenenbaum disembarked from the Green Line Bus to greet her adopted brother and true love Richie Tenenbaum, my life changed. There is a beat of silence as they see each other, the action slows, and the film takes a deep breath as the soundtrack slips into the soulful opening of Nico’s “These Days.” Something split and surged below my collarbone. I fell in love.

On our way home from the movie, I demanded my parents stop at Barnes & Noble to see if they had The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack in stock. They didn’t. I ordered it, and when the CD arrived, I listened to it continuously. This was not unusual—I am obsessive with music. I play an album, artist, or one song on repeat for a week, month, half a year, until I find something new. I sensed, though, that this attachment to the Tenenbaums soundtrack was not a phase. The CD was full of artists who would become favorite musicians—Nico, Paul Simon, The Velvet Underground—but I was smitten with the entire aesthetic of the movie. I imagined Alec Baldwin narrating my life. I loved the overhead and straight-on shots, the flat light, the faded colors and serious faces like in an old photograph, the on-screen labeling of characters and objects, the meticulously detailed sets. It felt similar to a Polaroid I had my mother take of me the summer before. I orchestrated the shot myself: I sat cross-legged in the grass, my terrier to my left, my pet tortoise straight in front, all centered in the frame as I stared straight into the lens and did not smile. I thought Wes—yes, in my head we were on a first-name basis—would approve. Continue reading

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5 Amazing Books to Give (and Receive) for the Holidays

Jingle All the Way

Time is running out. The big box stores have been looted. Shopping malls lie in ashes. But a little shop on the corner is still open. Warm light pours from the windows. It’s your friendly neighborhood bookstore! The holidays are saved!


Where You AreWhere You Are: A Collection of Maps That Will Leave You Feeling Completely Lost

Easily our favorite gift of 2013, this boxed set of 16 original works by the likes of Geoff Dyer, Sheila Heti, and Tao Lin is like a towering stack of beautifully wrapped presents flattened into one. Each piece folds out to become a sprawling map, or flips open to reveal artwork and essays. Dyer’s piece, for instance, is a huge Google map of his hometown in England, annotated with an elaborate legend that explains the autobiographical significance of specific places. Where You Are amounts to an elegant theory of mapping. The world is daunting, so we organize it on the page, and the result is… not a solution, exactly, but a better place to get lost in.


JezebelThe Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things

The writers at Jezebel have one of the most bawdy, intelligent, and entertaining voices on the Internet. Here they assemble their favorite jabs and profoundest wisdom in a fully illustrated encyclopedia. Entries like Page, Bettie (1923-2008) are incisive mini-essays that flaunt their coolness while updating feminism for the millennial set. The entry for nachos simply reads “Yes, please.”


The Wes Anderson CollectionThe Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz

If you don’t like Wes Anderson, we can still be friends. But you’re wrong and you should go away now. For those of us who can’t get enough of the sumptuous worlds that Wes Anderson creates, Matt Zoller Seitz has put together a big, glossy tribute, replete with stills, behind-the-scenes photos, a touching introduction by Michael Chabon, and interviews with Wes himself. Anderson is an elusive dude. While Seitz is gushing over the films, Anderson seems to escape out a back door.


JessJess: O! Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica by Jess

Born in 1923, Jess was a pioneer of collage art. His visual mash-ups of old magazine ads, Dick Tracy cartoons, and obscure diagrams are as subtle, bizarre, and funny as anything that’s come since. This book includes several unpublished works, an extra 20-page facsimile booklet, and a fold-out dust jacket.


S.S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

We don’t know if it’s pleasurable—or even possible—to actually read this book, but it sure is a dandy object to flip through. J. J. Abrams seems to think he invented the idea of constructing a novel out of notes and marginalia (evidently nobody told him about Pale Fire, House of Leaves, Griffin and Sabine, etc.) but he does a fine job of marshalling Little, Brown’s designers to carry out his vision. S. is the story of two young scholars who fall in love by trading notes in the margins of a novel within the… whatever. The postcards and handwritten scraps are fun to explore, and it’ll look great on your shelf.

– Brian Hurley

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